Travel Agents Advise Holiday Travelers To 'Be Prepared'

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The holidays can be stressful enough, but adding travel to the mix can make crazy days even crazier.

One thing is clear: There will be plenty of us traveling this year whether by planes, trains or roadways during the Christmas and New Year's holiday periods.

The number of those who will travel 50 or more miles from home is estimated at 92.3 million people, according to the AAA. That's a rise of 3.1 percent over last year. The big majority, 85.7 million people, will drive to their destinations but air travel numbers are also up.

The Air Transport Association (ATA), the leading trade association for U.S. airlines, has predicted a 3 percent increase in air travelers this year over last, and daily passenger volumes on peak holiday days ranging from 1.7 million to 2.3 million. The busiest days are expected to be Dec. 21-23, Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 2 and 3.

Travel agents know all too well the problems that can occur as millions of travelers head to their holiday destinations, and those contacted by AOL Travel News had plenty of advice to share.

Francine Beifeld of Travel Harmony in Reston, Virginia says, "being prepared" is the number one thing travelers need to think about before leaving on their holiday trips.

For those flying, Beifeld says it's best to leave plenty of time to get to the airport and for connecting between flights. And her special tip is to bring a small plastic bag so you can unload anything in your pockets and avoid misplacing items as you go through screening at airport security.

"Call the airline the day before departure to be sure that your seat assignments haven't changed and that your flight times are the same," advises Vicky Mary, president of Victoria Travel in Cincinnati.

"Make sure the airline has your cell phone or email in case of delays or cancellations and to try to check in for your flight online 24 hours prior," Mary adds.

A mistake a lot of people flying sitll make is bringing wrapped gifts in their carry-on, says JoAnne Kochneff, vice president of the American Society of Travel Agents Great Lakes Chapter and owner of Travel By Gagnon in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "TSA reserves the right to unwrap it to verify the contents. Save yourself some work and pack gift bags and tissue in your checked baggage and do the wrapping when you arrive at your destination."

Kochneff also advises travelers try to keep in mind the spirit of the holidays. For instance, she says if she sees any servicemen or women when she's traveling at holiday time she offers to buy them a meal or drink.

"Remember what the holidays are really about, and see how much more fun traveling can be if you try to spread a little cheer rather than complaining," Kochneff says.

It's also important to take care of yourself as you travel and try to keep stress at a minimum, advises Julie Barsamian of Cook Travel in New York. "Travel at non-peak times whether it be on the road or at the airport. You'll likely be less stressed, and you'll still get to your destination."

Where are we all going? Some 75 percent of respondents to the annual AAA survey say the purpose of their holiday trip is to visit with friends and family.

(Fran Golden contributed to this report.)

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